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Bynum and Hospital Officials Say Capacity Is Strained by Other Cities But Manageable


After a report Monday night that the city of Tulsa had no ICU beds available in its hospitals, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart and local hospital executives held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to reassure the public about capacity.

"At this time, Ascension St. John is experiencing record-level inpatient COVID-19 volumes across our own health system," said Ascension St. John CEO Jeff Nowlin. "However, we do want to assure the community that at this time, we have the capacity to treat all patients across our six hospitals, including those diagnosed with COVID-19."

Bynum noted there is a high clinical bar to getting admitted to hospitals right now, though. He told stories of two city employees diagnosed with COVID: One was given fluids and sent home despite an ongoing 106-degree fever because he wasn’t in bad enough respiratory shape. The other couldn’t be admitted until he developed pneumonia.

"So, that’s the threshold that our community is facing right now as far as the capacity for our hospitals to be able to treat people," Bynum said.

Bynum and health officials said Tuesday ICU capacity is fluid and hospitals have facilities in neighboring communities that can take patients. But that works both ways, and 61% of COVID patients in Tulsa hospitals the past two months have come from outside the city.

Bynum said that’s a reason he and the council are not currently considering restrictions like closing bars and limiting the size of gatherings in the face of a worsening pandemic.

"The challenge is those things are of decreasing ability to make an impact, again, when you have 61% of the people that are being hospitalized since September with this virus that aren’t governed by the Tulsa City Council and I. They’re from other communities," Bynum said.

Bynum continues to urge nearby communities to require masks. Jenks is considering a mask requirement Tuesday night.

The current top five Tulsa County ZIP codes for active COVID cases fall in Broken Arrow, Owasso and Bixby.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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